Goals Define Behaviour
Negotiations can be high intensity situations, where emotions and human nature can play a huge role. Sadly as often as this emotive and adrenaline filled environment can produce the drive to get the deal done, it can often be the cause of huge error. Many people, and certainly high stake negotiators, love the feeling of urgency, or ground breaking and the almost volcanic feeling of getting a deal done. However when the adrenaline drives you forward, clarity is lost, and the best tactic to employ is often the less enjoyable but more stable game of slowing down and being patient. Of the many mistakes observed the following key errors can lead to a deal being lost, satisfaction being reduced or worse still the whole relationship being damaged:
Concessions are made, uncontrolled negotiators may give away key aspects of the divisional sum to the point that they actually end up with a deal that is worse than their BATNA, best alternative to a negotiated agreement. A good an experienced negotiator will certainly be able to recognise the urgency in her counterpart’s behaviour and be able to use it to her advantage. The urgency leads to a situation where the time factor or a deadline becomes the main interest, despite how many key interests were identified in the preparatory work. A long drawn out deal, or a high octane environment which continues day and night until the deadline can both lead to a situation where urgency takes over.
When tiredness kills a deal.
The fatigued negotiator who spends days banging heads with his counterpart, trying to force his way to a deal, will eventually run out of steam and do almost anything to get the deal over the line. Cardinal mistake, this is where extra value gets picked up by one side and lost by the other. In a hugely pressurised situation where negotiations had ran on for 3 days and nights I was weary, quite honestly I was losing the will to live, let alone go any further with either the people I represented or the team sitting across the table from us. About to speak, in what I thought was a breakthrough moment, a wise counsel place his hand on my shoulder and said stop, I know how you are feeling, but you’re not thinking clearly and you are about to give it all away. Boy was he right. For the next number of hours we sat in almost total silence while our colleagues asked time and again what will it take to get this deal over the line. In other words what have we got to give in on, or give over to you just so we can finish. Not a wise negotiating strategy I think you’ll agree.
Manage the energy levels tiredness and emotion at crucial stages of deal making.
The Shrinking Pie:
In this scenario the extra value that has been gained, in expanding the pie by reciprocal sharing of interests and collaborating to solve a joint problem, gets lost. The larger deal that benefited all the interested parties starts to shrink. It may still offer great value for one side but the extra value for all becomes lost. In fact if you allow urgency to cloud judgment the side of the pie you intend to get may be the only side that shrinks and you may be manipulated into a situation where you see gains being made by “the other side” and to your cost.
When this happens it may not even become immediately obvious, it may well be some time later when the terrible realisation dawns that you’ve been had, or that you didn’t get all you needed to from a deal. Even if you were happy at the time, this satisfaction will not last and eventually you may end up regretting the deal altogether. Bad enough if you are negotiating on you own behalf but imagine if you are representing others, a group, a company, a trade union. Not only have you underperformed for people paying you to negotiate but your credibility as a negotiator may be lost. Even worse if you aren’t aware of how much you gave away until you review the deal and compare it your BATNA and your goals.
Goals are the answer:
The best way to defend yourself from error is to keep sight of your goals, know your BATNA, and measure the deal you are making constantly against these criteria. When any move is made that looks like progress slow down, take time to review. Use legitimate criteria to measure the deal and use your goals. Why would you allow yourself to be taken down a path that is significantly different from the goals you set yourself at the start of the process?
Be sure that your goals define your behaviour, not that you behaviour impacts on your goals.